Ai Weiwei’s creativity is spinning at full throttle. The 56-year-old Chinese rebel artist has released his first heavy-metal single “Dumbass,” a song that is based on his 81-day secret detention in 2011.
Ai was arrested two years ago during a crackdown on dissident bloggers, lawyers and campaigners. His arrest sparked an international outcry. Though he was released in June of that year, without being charged with any actual crimes, Chinese authorities would later claim he evaded paying taxes and slam him with a $2.4 million fine.
He said in a statement that the accompanying music video is a detailed reconstruction of his prison condition, which he committed to memory because he “had nothing else to do.” (Prison guards would secretly ask him to sing for them as a way to kill time.) In the video, Ai tries to show the contrast between the realities of prison and the fantasies of his guards, while reflecting on the struggle to establish basic human rights in China.
“Dumbass,” already blocked in the Chinese mainland, is the top song of his six-track debut album Divina Commedia, which is set to be released next month. The song’s music was handled by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, a rock musician and contemporary artist. According to the New York Times, Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle shot the video. Doyle, a Hong Kong resident, has worked with director Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Yimou, China’s star filmmaker that directed the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics.
“I stand up as a dumbass, the whole country acts like a prostitute,” he belts out the lyrics (a very muted translation of the actual Chinese expletive), “Dumbasses are everywhere, forget about forgiveness and tolerance.”
The artist, whose passport is still held by Chinese authorities, currently lives in Beijing. He is working on his second album, which he told Reuters would be a collection of more romantic tunes.